March 16, 2016
New Zealand has benefited so much because of its burgeoning Manuka honey market, so much so that the country’s neighbor, Australia, wants to get in the market too and really compete in a business that gains more buyers every day. Such competition can only benefit both economies, especially given that competition in a free market forces both countries to constantly improve their products and acquire more potential buyers.
Some Australian researchers have even been trying to find ways to harvest manuka from Australian tea tree species rather than New Zealand tea trees, which have been the prime source of Manuka honey and obviously only grow in New Zealand. However, a group of Perth business people in Western Australia (WA) have said they believe the best way to break into the Manuka honey market is to “recreate the product made from the original New Zealand Leptospermum trees.” Under this belief, the Perth group has begun importing Leptospermum seed varieties from New Zealand’s north island into Western Australia.
Paul Callander, a Perth businessman, and his colleagues plan to grow one million trees in a Manjimup nursery in the southwest portion of WA. If these trees successfully grow in a foreign environment, the Australian Manuka honey market can be established officially. According to consultant Tony Woods, the New Zealand trees are well suited for the soil given their similarities to Australian tea trees, but he remains unsure at this point if the trees will adapt to their environment. There remains a stage of trial and error with the different varieties, given that some are “coastal varieties, some are from salty country, wet country, and some are from dry country.”
The Perth group has been looking to form a mutually beneficial partnership with the Australian beekeeping industry to develop a sustainable population of tea trees. Many beekeepers are excited by the prospect of a Manuka honey market including beekeeper Brendan Fewster, who stated that Manuka honey “could be a goldmine for local honey producers. It won’t come tomorrow, but we’re willing to work for the next few years, and if we get it right, I think it will be really beneficial.”
As a competitor in the global Manuka honey market, Western Australia has the chance to not only capitalize on the potential of Manuka honey, but also on its reputation for having some of the healthiest bees in the world. Fewster said, “We are clean, green, and antibiotic and chemical free in our hives, and we’ve got to really run with that.” With a successful product and a green reputation, Western Australia and the rest of the country can potentially make as big a smash as the original Manuka honey market in New Zealand.